Thursday, 28 January 2010
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. a13, motion re membership of committees; No. b13, motion re referral of papers to the Joint Committee on Health and Children; No. 24, statements on the mid-west task force; No. 13, motion re proposal that Dáil Éireann notes the report of the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny, EU Scrutiny Report No. 29: COM (2009) 499, 500, 501, 502 & 503 - Draft legislative package on reforming the EU's financial supervisory and regulatory framework; and No. 23, Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2009 [Seanad] - Second Stage (resumed).
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that Nos. a13 and b13 shall be decided without debate; the proceedings regarding No. 24 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 2 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the statements of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes; and the proceedings on No. 13 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 3.30 p.m. today and the following arrangements shall apply: the speeches of the Chairman of the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny and of the main spokespersons for the Government, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, the speeches of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, Members may share time, and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply which shall not exceed ten minutes.
I am glad the Minister for Finance is here today because I want to oppose the Order of Business. All the matters on this Order Business are important and relevant. However, the issue that struck people this morning was that of 70,000 mortgage holders with Permanent TSB who face an increase in their variable interest rate mortgages. They may just be the tip of an iceberg as the figure may well rise to 350,000 mortgage holders if other banks follow suit.
The House discussed at considerable length, and with due diligence from the Minister for Finance, the financial emergency measures Bill, the bank guarantee and the entire NAMA legislation. Last year, the House bailed out the banks to the tune of €11 billion. A further €8 billion to €10 billion may be required by them this year. January has not even passed and at the first opportunity mortgage holders are about to be screwed again.
Will the Minister for Finance, on behalf of the Government, tell these banks and lending societies that many people, who were seduced to take out mortgages over the past several years in the middle of a property boom, now face ruination? The primacy concern for many is the state of the economy. Many have paid health and pension levies, taken pay reductions and had all sorts of increases taken out of their wage packets. Now up to 350,000 face a mortgage interest rate increase. Is the Minister for Finance prepared to call in the banks today? Is he prepared to discuss the implications of the bank guarantee and European Central Bank rates? What can the Government do in response to this outrageous action that will affect so many people? This is a matter of serious concern for thousands across the country. Before we discuss other matters on the Order of Business, will the Minister respond to what I have raised?
On behalf of the Labour Party, I too oppose the Order of Business. The Order of Business proposed by the Minister for Finance is "politics as usual". However, householders and families were told by the newspapers this morning that another increase in mortgage interest rates is on the way. This is after several months in which one could not turn on a radio or open a newspaper without having someone saying the corner had been turned. People were told that while their incomes and circumstances were not as good as they were, prices were coming down and the economy was improving. We now know mortgages are set to increase again. For many families, these mortgages, given the excessive price they paid for their homes, are in excess of the property's worth. There is no NAMA for householders who find themselves in negative equity or in difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments.
As Deputy Kenny stated, we have had to deal in this House with proposals from the Government to assist the banks at a cost to date to the taxpayer of €11 billion. We have put in place a NAMA process for those who borrowed excessively and for the transfer of the properties of those who speculated in property development over a period. Not alone is there no relief or comfort for families who find themselves stretched to meet their mortgage repayments, they are now being told this morning their mortgages are to increase again. We cannot have business and politics as usual in this House while families throughout the country are faced with the type of news they got this morning.
The Order of Business is as laid before the House this morning. I did not hear an alternative proposal from the Opposition leaders who wish only to discuss banking matters.
Let us be clear about one fact. Permanent TSB has not applied to join NAMA and it has not received one cent in capital from the State. Once again, Deputies Gilmore and Kenny referred to a collective entity called "the banks". The particular news report on which this morning's questions are based is correct, namely, the board of Permanent TSB is meeting today to consider its options, which are difficult. Deputies will be well aware that interest rates are at historically low levels. Permanent TSB issued a large number of tracker mortgages which means it cannot, at the interest rates charged by the European Central Bank make a profit on its mortgage book.
Permanent TSB is and has paid money to the State for the benefit of the guarantee. The suggestion will, no doubt, be advanced in the next 24 hours that we should withdraw the State guarantee from the banks. Let us be clear about the consequences of doing so. The consequences of that would be to increase the cost of funding for those institutions. These are commercial realities upon which all Members of this House must reflect.
I do not wish to turn this into Question Time. I oppose the Order of Business on the basis that this matter is of primary importance. I recall the words of the Minister for Finance-----
-----when the bank guarantee scheme, which Fine Gael supported, was being debated in this House. The Minister correctly stated at the time that we are now deeply embedded in the banking sector. The clear impression given was that the Government was in charge and would protect mortgage holders.
If the Minister wants me to put forward an alternative to the Order of Business as proposed, I will do so. I had thought he would have been able, on behalf of the thousands of people who are concerned this morning-----
Is the Minister saying in response to my query and that of Deputy Gilmore that the NAMA banks will not follow suit and increase mortgage rates, for which the taxpayer will have to pay again and again to an undetermined amount? This is of consternation, frustration and anger to thousands of people, which I know the Minister will understand. I am aware of the legalities in regard to variable interest rates. I want to know, on behalf of-----
-----mortgage holders, what the Minister and Government can do for mortgage holders if the NAMA banks follow suit with an increase. While Permanent TSB did not get one cent from the State the banks beholding to NAMA have received hundreds of millions and billions of euro. What will the Government do if NAMA follows suit and up to 350,000 people are faced with the devastating prospect of an increase in their mortgage repayments? Is the Minister saying that the NAMA banks will not follow suit and increase mortgage interest rates for their mortgage holders?
I was asked a specific question about a specific institution and I dealt with it. I should make clear that there is a clear commitment in the programme for Government to protect family homes. The interdepartmental group charged with examining this issue has already met twice and is progressing commitments in this regard.
-----NAMA banks will not increase their mortgage interest rates? Thousands of families are waiting to hear the Minister's answer, which is critical to their futures. If the Minister answers the question I will sit down.
I am trying to clarify a matter. When Deputy Kenny and I asked the Minister for Finance to clarify the news this morning that mortgages interest rates are to increase the Minister replied stating that this applied only in respect of Permanent TSB and implied to us that it is an exception because Permanent TSB had not received any capital from the State.
Is the Minister for Finance telling mortgage holders in this country, other than those who have mortgages with Permanent TSB, that their mortgages will not increase? The expectation is that once Permanent TSB increases its interest rates the other institutions will follow suit.
No Minister for Finance since the foundation of the State has been able to announce in this House what mortgage interest rates will be in the future. I was asked a question about a specific institution and I dealt with it.
I am proceeding with the Order of Business. Is the proposal for dealing with Nos. a13 and b13, motions re membership of committees and referral of papers to Joint Committee on Health and Children, without debate, agreed to?
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 69 (Dermot Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, Martin Cullen, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Martin Mansergh, John Moloney, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 58 (Seán Barrett, Joe Behan, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, George Lee, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Joe McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.
I agree with it. I will not have an opportunity to speak on this debate but I call on the Minister for Finance to note that I have raised the matter of European scrutiny with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on a number of occasions. Under existing facilities and prior to the Lisbon treaty we did not have the capacity to examine the way particular directives were transposed into Irish law, as against being transposed into law in other countries. This has a particular impact in a number of areas. In the context of this report, which is important, and now that the Lisbon treaty has been passed, I call for the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny to have the opportunity to take a small number of directives and examine the way they have been transposed into law here, because there are implications for the smooth running of business and for the operation of a number of sectors in Ireland. This should be feasible now that the Lisbon treaty has been passed. I recommend this proposal strongly as I will not have an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Deputy Kenny makes a fair point. I take it he is referring to the issue of whether it is implemented by statute or regulation and it is important that there should be parliamentary involvement in that. I will draw it to the attention of the Taoiseach.
On the same issue, it is very welcome that we hold a debate on an item coming through from the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny. I welcome the measure and I wish to see it extended, as we all do, with the enhanced role promised under the Lisbon treaty. Will the Minister for Finance-----
There are two directives being signed at present, the services directive, which is very controversial, and the flooding directive. They are being passed into Irish law by statutory instrument without the slightest involvement of the House.